I heard the story of two friends who were camping in the woods. As they were having their morning coffee, they heard rustling in the bushes. Coming toward them at full speed was a very large grizzly bear with a very hungry look on his face. One of them started pulling on his running shoes. His buddy turned to him and said, "You don't think you can outrun that grizzly bear, do you?"
"No," the man said. "I don't need to. All I have to do is outrun you."
That is how a lot of so-called friends are. They run away at the first sign of difficulty. It has been said, "A friend is one who walks in when others walk out." I wonder how many friends we truly have. And I wonder what kind of friends we are to others. Time will tell.
Socrates once said, "Friend? There is no friend." But Socrates didn't know about the one whom the Bible describes as "a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Of course, I am speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the greatest friend that any of us ever will have. To say, "Jesus is my best friend," almost sounds like a cliché, but when you think about it, it really is true. You can have a close friendship with God.
Clearly Jesus Christ has offered His friendship to all of humanity. The question is, how many of us really want to be friends with God? He cannot be our friend if we don't respond to His offer. I can't decide to become someone's best friend unless he wants to reciprocate and be my friend as well. I can't just choose him. He has to choose me in return, and thus a relationship begins to develop.
Jesus offers the hand of friendship to us. He wants to be our friend. Jesus was called "the friend of sinners" because He would actually sit down and have a conversation with a prostitute or a tax collector or even a Samaritan woman. He extended His friendship to anyone who wanted it. Of course, He ultimately proved the legitimacy of His offer by laying His life down for us. The Bible says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).
So what is required of us to call ourselves true friends of Jesus Christ?
First, true friends of Jesus will obey Him. Jesus said, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14). If you are not obeying Him, then you have no right to claim that you are His friend. God is looking for consistency and regularity in your life. If you are really a friend of Jesus, then you will obey Him.
Second, the obedience Jesus requires is an active obedience. Some people think it is enough to merely avoid what God forbids. They might say, "I am not a thief, an adulterer, or an alcoholic." That would be like saying to someone, "I am your friend because I don't rob you or cheat you or insult you or beat you up." Granted, your friend will appreciate the fact you don't do these things. But maybe you can go a little further in the friendship than that. It is not just a matter of refusing to do the wrong things. It is also a matter of doing the right things. That is what God wants. That is what it means to be His friend.
Third, true friends of Jesus obey Him because they want to. Obedience comes as a desire and not a duty if we really have a friendship with Jesus. We don't say, "Read the Bible? Again?" or "Pray? I don’t really feel like praying right now." When Jesus is your friend, you look forward to Bible study. You look forward to prayer. You look forward to your time with Him.
Certainly our Lord had a lot of fair-weather friends when He walked this earth. Jesus was popular when He was handing out free lunch. When He fed the 5,000, He was the most popular guy in town. But when He started challenging that fickle crowd and telling them they needed to love Him and obey Him and do what was right, many of them turned away. They were fair-weather friends.
Don't be a fair-weather friend. Be a true friend to others. More importantly, be a true friend to God.
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.